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ZTE Racer review

Niall Magennis



1 of 5

ZTE Racer
  • ZTE Racer
  • ZTE Racer
  • ZTE Racer
  • ZTE Racer
  • ZTE Racer


Our Score:


User Score:

The price of lower-end Android phones has been steadily falling, but the Racer from Chinese manufacturer ZTE sets a new benchmark. Available from Three for just £109.99 on Pay As As you Go with a £10 top-up included in the price, the Racer is by far the cheapest Android handset that we’ve seen. As any bargain hunter knows, there’s cheap and nasty as well as cheap and cheerful, so just which camp does the Racer fall into?

Some budget handsets manage to look quite swish, but sadly the Racer isn’t one of them as you can tell straight away from just looking at it that it's a budget handset. This is mainly due to the nasty, silver paint used on the band that runs around the edge of the phone, but it’s also partly because the battery cover doesn’t fit quite as snugly against the battery as perhaps it should. Nevertheless, the rubberised plastic finish on the rear as well as the glossy frame around the screen does give a bit of oomph to the otherwise flat design.

It’s not just the looks that have suffered. ZTE’s cost cutting is also obvious on the screen. It’s a resistive display with a low resolution of 320 x 240 pixels and it obviously doesn’t have the colour palette of higher end smartphones. As a result, it tends to look murkier than most smartphone displays, text is jaggy and pictures don’t have the vibrancy that you’d expect on high-end devices. Furthermore, while the viewing angle is fine when you’re looking at it in portrait mode, when you turn it on its side to watch a widescreen video you’ll notice that you have to tilt it to the right to keep the brightness consistent.

However, despite its resistive nature, the screen performs surprisingly well when it comes to touch input. ZTE told us it put a lot of effort into the software used to register touch input and it has certainly paid off. The screen gives the impression of being more responsive and accurate than other resistive screens we’ve used. However, it doesn’t support multi-touch so you can’t pinch to zoom in the browser or picture viewer.

For some reason many handset manufacturers have been reluctant to use Version 2.1 of Android on their budget handsets. LG uses V1.6 on the Optimus GT540 and Acer went for the even older V1.5 on the E110. Luckily, ZTE hasn’t fallen into this trap as it has sensibly kitted the Racer out with the newer V2.1 software. This version brings a number of benefits including support for Exchange email, an updated web browser, a sexier user interface as well as a bump in overall performance.

ZTE hasn’t added any of its own tweaks to the software so you get the plain vanilla Android interface. However, given that the standard interface is so good, and that some manufacturers muck it up by adding unnecessary bells and whistles, we don’t think this is an issue at all. Besides, if you want to jazz it up a bit you can always add extra free widgets and launchers like Launch Pro from the Android Market. And ZTE has at least enabled some of the snazzier UI elements available in V2.1, such as the 3D conveyor belt effect in the main menu.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


August 25, 2010, 3:52 pm

I think perhaps if you buy this Pay As You Go in person from a Three store you get a better deal. I got it including the £10 for £100 from Oxford Circus Three store.

The downsides to this phone are definitely the resistive screen, its size and the camera.

However, I have to say, for a phone that costs half the price of an HTC Wildfire, and has Android 2.1, I am extremely pleased for this £100 price. The phone does so much for literally, so little! Definitely glad I bought it.

The Wildfire is a classy phone, but having said that, with all the factors included, I think this is the ultimate budget smartphone.

Don't think its too ugly though. :P


August 26, 2010, 12:41 am


It's good to see TR review more and more budget products make it on to TR. Not sure I agree with your definition of a smartphone though, jsg. Surely at that point everything bar handsets for the elderly become smartphones. Don't we have to start restricting the label for things like the Droid and the Evo. Then again, I refrained from including the original 2G iPhone in that category.


August 26, 2010, 3:43 am


Yeah, I agree that the term "smartphone" is getting more diluted as time goes on. But compared to my last phone, (Sony Ericsson W800i) this is! :) Although I'm sure there will come a point where we'll be calling things like the upcoming HTC HD Ace smartphones and remove the label for things like the Wildfire.


October 18, 2010, 3:04 am

WOW just WOW / The biggest bang i have seen for my buck.

I have not yet seen a phone with soo many features at this price.

Phone feel it bit cheap and 'plasticky' but looks great and u can over come the feel when u start using it, as u will be so involved in using it u wont know what it feels like :P

but of course there is a down side to all these features which is battery life. It is decent but it could be better, having said that I do use the phone almost 5 to 6 hours continuously on skype or web browsing. But keep an eye on killing apps u r not using using the app killer on androids and also turing off Sync, GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth, and not having it on full bright indoors, etc.

Also one down side was that you can not download skype using the official skype website. you must use 3 (if in UK). And because of this you can not use skype on Wifi only on the 3g network u can. (i think this is because 3 only want u to use them for skype when on their phones)

But the phone is excellent, i don't think u can get a better phone then this unless u spend a little bit more and get the HTC WildFire.

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